Adopted Children's Social Competence: The Interplay Between Past and Present Influences

AuthorJoana Soares,Maria Barbosa‐Ducharne,Sílvia Fonseca,Marta Moreira,Jesús Palacios,Orlanda Cruz
Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
J S  M B-D University of Porto
J P University of Seville
M M, S F ,  O C University of Porto
Adopted Children’s Social Competence: The
Interplay Between Past and Present Inuences
Objective: To explore potential postadoption
moderators of the link between preadoption
experiences and adoptees’ social competence.
Background: In the context of the limited
and inconsistent knowledge about adopted
children’s social competence, our hypotheses
concern the interplay between preadoption
parental neglect and adoptive parents’ emotion
socialization practices.
Method: With adopters as informants, the
social competence of 97 Portuguese school-age
children was evaluated in terms of social skills
and competing problem behaviors, using the
Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scale.
Children’s preadoption experiences (using a
sociodemographic questionnaire) and parental
emotion socialization (evaluated by the Coping
with Children’s Negative Emotions Scale) were
also assessed.
Results: Time since adoption and unsupportive
adoptive parents’ responses moderated the rela-
tionship between preadoption parental neglect
and adoptees’ social skills. Unsupportive adop-
tive parents’ responses exacerbated the effects
Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Univer-
sity of Porto, Rua Alfredo Allen, 4200-135 Porto, Portugal
Key Words: adopted children, emotion socialization,
parental neglect, problem behaviors, social competence,
social skills.
of preadoption neglect. This moderation was
stronger with longer postadoption time.
Conclusion: Added to preadoption parental
neglect, unsupportive adoptive parenting accen-
tuates the risks for adoptees’ social competence.
Implications: Adoptive parents should be
informed that socialization practices concern-
ing children’s negative emotions are associated
with adopted children’s social competence.
The socioemotional development of adoptees
is particularly interesting as a group due to
the contrast between adversity experienced
before the adoptive placement and positive
experiences in their adoptive families (Palacios
& Brodzinsky, 2010). Many studies have been
designed to analyze the negative effects of early
adversity on physical, cognitive, and behavioral
development, as well as the catch-up processes
triggered by the new family environment (e.g.,
van IJzendoorn & Juffer, 2006), but much less
is known about how pre- and postadoption
socioemotional experiences interact to shape
adoptees’ social functioning, particularly their
social competence. This study was designed to
examine the link between preadoption neglect
and adoptees’ social competence, by testing
the moderating role of both adoptive parents’
emotion socialization practices (supportive and
unsupportive parenting) and the length of the
adoptive parent–child relationship.
Family Relations 68 (December 2019): 565–579 565

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